Overachieving Westminster Griffins aim to make noise in NAIA Tournament
Sunday, March 14, 2010 8:41 p.m. MDT
By John Coon
SALT LAKE CITY — Westminster can find plenty of reasons to feel good about how well its women's basketball season has played out so far.
The Griffins finished the regular season ranked ninth in the NAIA Top 25 Coaches Poll and took home a regular season Frontier Conference championship for a second straight year. McKenzie Jessop earned player of the year honors and J.D. Gustin was selected as the coach of year for a second consecutive season.
And with a No. 3 seed going into this week's NAIA Tournament, Westminster finds itself in a good position to make some noise in Jackson, Tenn.
It serves as a testament to how much the Griffins have exceeded expectations in a season where they had to replace several key contributors from a season ago and dealt with season-ending injuries to a couple of important players along the way.
"We've been through so much adversity," Gustin said. "This group has totally overachieved."
The latest bit of that adversity came with the loss of freshman guard Allie Eastman, when she suffered a season-ending injury in a regular season game against Carroll College last month. Eastman, a freshman, had distinguished herself as one of the team's best wing defenders.
Without her in the lineup, Gustin worried his team's defense would take a huge hit.
"When she went down, I wasn't sure we were going to win another game to be honest with you," Gustin said. "This group has found a way to win."
Indeed, the only defeat for the Griffins since losing Eastman came at the hands of Lewis-Clark State when the 13th ranked Warriors walked away from Behnken Field House with an 80-60 victory in the Frontier Conference Tournament championship game.
The loss left behind a bad taste for Westminster. Bouncing back from that defeat, however, is a small matter for a team used to dealing with adversity.
"This is just one loss," senior guard Keisha Catten said. "We knew we were going to nationals already. We wanted to win, but we still have more games to play."
The Griffins' first chance to get on a winning track once again comes Wednesday at 4:45 p.m. when they face Lambuth University in the first round of the NAIA Tournament.